Waiting for Good Things

Life is full of good things this summer. In many ways it is what I dreamed the summer would be. And yet, with each dreamed of activity on the horizon, I find a struggle waging within. There’s a little voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re getting too excited. Remember all the other times it didn’t work out? That’s going to happen once more and you’re going to be left devastated. Again.” So what if I am let down again? What if the thing I hope for doesn’t happen in my timing, or at all? This can be a big thing or a little thing and I think we all deal with this tension to some degree or another at least once in our lives.

I am reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot right now. (Such an amazing book! If you want to dig deeper into this tension of not getting what you want when you want it or just have questions about what it looks like to have a God-honoring relationship, read this book!) Despite it being specifically about a love relationship, I think this philosophical concept still applies to desiring something good in the future:

“We may imagine what it would be like to share a given event and feel loss at having to experience it alone. But let us not forget– that loss is imagined, not real… What is, is actual– what might be simply is not, and I must not therefore query God as though He robbed me– of things that are not. ” (Words of Jim Elliot written to Elisabeth during their long before-engaged season)

In that light, becoming bitter toward God for not giving a supposedly-good gift is ludicrous. On the one hand, was it really a good gift for us if God didn’t see fit to provide it for us? On the other hand, would we forfeit a right relationship with God because He wouldn’t be Santa Clause for us?

So can we eagerly anticipate a desired event or outcome, while still being fulfilled and happy in Christ? Can we have a desire in the back of our heart and wait for the right time to come for it to bloom? What if _______ doesn’t happen when we think it should? Can we be patient? Can we trust God to be good the the tension of the waiting?

I love this quote on waiting! It is,

“Steadfastness, that is holding on;

Patience that is holding back;

Expectancy, that is holding the face up;

Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;

Listening, that is holding quiet and still as to hear.” (S.D. Gordon)

When we allow God to work in the waiting, we are drawn closer to Him in love; we are brought to a place of trusting Him more.

So wait bravely, friend.

Growing in Grace

My life has been in upheaval quite a bit so far this summer. (And it’s only nearing the end of June!) My goal has been to just go with it and keep taking the next step. And it’s worked. I’m actually starting to thrive off the busier, all-over-the-place-ness that is my schedule. It seems like God is teaching me a million things right now, but a big one is being willing to step out and into what He wants for me. That often means leaving my anxiety behind/ acting in spite of it. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is in relation to other people. I tend to keep my distance and not engage because of that. If people come to me, that is usually okay because I actually genuinely love people a lot.

Sharing the love of Jesus is hard when fear keeps you from striking up conversations  with your co-workers or walking across the room to a group of people. Unlike other times in my life, right now, this is a battle worth fighting. I know so many people who are great at reaching out to people and making them feel accepted. I’ve benefited from this on many, many occasions. It is one of the best feelings- to be drawn out and have someone be interested in you and your life! I want to offer that gift to the people I come into contact with. (Er, the ones I could be coming into contact with…)

Walls must come down; having open hands is necessary. As a Christian, I have received love, grace, and forgiveness, and still do receive them daily. Why would I feel the need to protect myself when I belong to God? Letting what had been given to me flow freely to others is the only way to actually experience the freedom those gifts were meant to give.

As the person who likes to stand back and observe, this all means I need to step forward and be the one who speaks, pursues relationships, and acts kindly toward others. It means I stop worrying about what someone will think of me if I say or do something. It means that I start acting more and observing a little less. It means that I look beyond myself in action taken and words spoken.

Yet, I cannot count how many times I have done the opposite when the opportunity arose. I have been glued to the ground, unable to open my mouth, left conversations unfinished, and far too often have not even been able to make eye contact with people. All because of my anxiety. It’s so frustrating and heaps shame on me. In those moments, I have to accept the grace to not engage just as readily as I would need to accept the grace to overcome and engage. I have to take to heart God’s power and love in a whole new way just so I don’t drown in guilt. Second, third, and hundreth chances are the way God rolls, though, because He’s not keeping track. Thank goodness!

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

Who’s Visiting the Mental Realm

What would Jesus do? A decade or so ago this catch phrase was popular, but now it’s considered cliche. Often we subconsciously ask, “What would mom do in this situation?” or “What would dad do?” or “What would my friend do?” or even, “What would a certain celebrity or leader do?” Sometimes this can be a good thing, especially if they are seeking after Jesus or living in a healthy manor. As a daily habit, though, it can take us off track. I think it’s important to ask who or what inhabits our mind. Because who and what we think about will shape who we become.

So who do you want to become like? Aspiring to have certain qualities we see in another person can be a good thing. We must be careful not to place a person on a pedastool and expect them to be perfect, though. In the end, that only leads to hurt.

I have to remind myself that Jesus is my main example. I’ve begun reading ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ which documents the thoughts and discoveries of Brother Lawrence. As you can probably guess by the title, he was very good at inviting God into his brain-space.

“When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.” (‘The Practice of the Presence of God’)

In a letter he wrote, Brother Lawrence freely admitted that the first few years of striving to think of God often was extremely difficult and disheartening. Yet, it had become such a valuable part of his relationship with God and he recommended the habit to all he came into contact with. I think it’s encouraging to know that the mental realm doesn’t have to be won by tomorrow, nor does failure after failure have to make us quit. There is hope for the kind of closeness with God that Brother Lawrence experienced. There is hope that our minds will be filled with good, positive things. There is always hope. So strive towards that hope set before you!

Paul talked about “dying” in suffering like Christ so, “by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11) The road to freedom is marked by this dying; a relationship with God will inevitably come with suffering. Yet, we are not to run from hardship. The battle of the mind is pivotal and we can’t run from the struggle.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

66. Into the Unknown

It’s always an odd feeling when life, or God, leads you to someplace you weren’t expecting to visit. This is where I find myself right now. God is transforming my mind and bringing me healing in ways that are truly impossible, at least impossible on my own strength. (Trust me, I have tried to “fix” myself in these ways many a time..) It’s so strange to finally be in the transition period and yet not be the initiator of it; so amazing and scary to feel and see these changes and new patterns of thought.

The “scary” got a lot bigger than the “amazing” this week, though. Honestly, there was one day when I would just randomly start crying over seemingly little things. Except that they represented this new place God is taking me, so they were actually really big things to me.

At the end of that emotional day, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I can trust my Father. It’s not me against the world, nor me on a journey to miserableness by myself. Nope. It’s me traveling the road to wholeness with a good, good Father and Friend. (Having great friends and family helps a whole lot too.)

I was reminded of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Isn’t it great when the cliché verses take on whole new meaning!? Well, in my unsureness, this verse became a rock of truth.

I don’t know what the next months, or even the next few days, will look like on this transition journey. That’s an acute fact right now. But really, do any of us really know what the next days will hold? That’s why the Bible encourages us to say, “If the Lord wills it, we will do _______.” Keeping hold of the promises that God has a good plan and that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him will make every weird day and odd “I don’t know what’s going on” feeling much easier to roll with.

59. A Righteous Ruler’s Promise

Is it really already Thursday? I feel like that will be my thought most weeks over the next semester… it’s just what college does to you. Time starts to fly, and you’re along for the crazy ride.

My goal is to keep up with this blog, posting every week. But I’m saying sorry in advance, because I’m sure I’ll miss posting at least once.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

When I read this verse at the beginning of the week, it struck me that it’s so hard to remember and believe the promises of God. They are just so crazy good! In real life, if something sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Another verse helped me to take this particular promise to heart as I started school this week.

“But to the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” – Hebrews 1:8

I see this mental image of God giving Jesus a throne, a kingdom, and it’s defining feature is uprightness, righteousness. The one who came, died, and rose again; the perfect one who is now seen by God instead of sinful me. That’s the God I can see keeping the promise to uphold, be with me, and provide strength. That’s the God I can see fulfilling those words.

College has been a source of anxiety and panic in the past, so after a year off, I was nervous about starting this semester. It’s cool to see how God has set up “guardrails” this week to stop me from going too far into that anxiety, though. He was with me every moment and I’m slowly getting used to that idea. God wants to work in our lives/ bring His righteous kingdom: we just have to leave room for Him.

55. Despite Cares of This World

The past couple of weeks I’ve been living in the land of impossible. Thing after thing that usually cause me great anxiety have come my way, much of it healthcare related. It’s a miracle that I haven’t had a full blown panic attack, but anxiety has been building. At times of small, slowly mounting anxiety, verses such as, “Do not be anxious about anything” don’t often help. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what the heart needs, though. I found Jesus’ words on the end times and this warning:

“But take heed to yourselves, least your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36

In their own way, these verses can cause anxiety. Going back a few lines before these, you find Jesus describing all the things which will transpire leading up to His second coming. It scary stuff! Then He concluded the list with, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift your heads, because you’re redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:28)

When our focus is on Jesus coming back, it’s easier to not be dragged down by the cares life. Looking back, will the fact that I got stuck with a needle to have blood drawn matter? Will the time I eat dinner matter? I doubt it. Having a consistent conversation going with God helps us to focus on Jesus instead of _______.